Louisville's departure will hurt Big East

Posted: November 29, 2012

According to the Wells Fargo Center website, tickets are available for the three Villanova basketball games being played there this season, against Louisville, Syracuse, and Georgetown, starting at $25.

Given 'Nova's rough start, it's natural that tickets are still available. But who will be the big draw once the Great Big East Exodus is complete?

Realignment chaos continued Wednesday with news that Louisville will be leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference. Our locals keep taking monetary hits. The Big East is in the midst of negotiating a television contract. Trading Louisville and Rutgers for East Carolina and Tulane isn't adding value for football or hoops.

Maybe that's a bigger issue for Temple than Villanova since the next football contract is supposed to bring in bigger dollars than basketball. The defections are costing Temple serious money needed to pay for athletics on North Broad Street. Villanova - which despite its Main Line image has a smaller endowment than Drexel - isn't getting richer from any of this, either, and its future keeps getting cloudier.

Should Villanova have upgraded to the higher football level in the hope of getting into a power conference? That would have been reckless. Sure, Realignment Bingo is paying off for Rutgers. But Villanova may have wound up in the same spot Connecticut is in and couldn't have afforded it.

Thinking that either Villanova or Temple had some magic wand to wave that would have gotten either school into the ACC or the Big Ten is fantasy. (Of course, it's also unbelievable that every one of the schools that were in the Big East when Temple left a decade ago have now gone or announced they are leaving.)

It's impossible to analyze the chaos without bringing up the Big East breaking-apart scenarios. Are we there yet? If Georgetown and St. John's aren't ready, it isn't likely to happen. But are all the schools that don't play football thinking about it? Count on it.

The Providence Journal recently wrote of Big East bylaws that would allow the non-football schools to vote to dissolve the league. They would have the votes necessary to do this until July, when new members, including Temple, become full voting members.

The story didn't suggest schools are ready to do this, just that the mechanism is available.

If this nuclear option were used, attorneys would get plenty of work because a lot of dollars are involved. Instead of the non-football schools paying exit fees, they theoretically would be making money, sharing a pot from splitting up the fees from the schools that have already left. We're talking as much as $60 million, presumably to be split among all the schools in the league when it dissolves. That's not counting the millions more in Big East NCAA basketball profits that schools such as Louisville and Syracuse will have to leave behind.

Would the non-football schools automatically be able to put together a better league without Temple, Memphis, and Cincinnati? That remains debatable even if schools such as Xavier and Dayton leave the Atlantic Ten to join Georgetown, Villanova, and the others.

This probably won't be a decision based solely on TV dollars since any difference in basketball television revenue is unlikely to be as much as $1 million a year per school, whatever the basketball configuration. The new TV deal is much more crucial for the football schools, given the greater profits to be had in that sport.

It's made sense for a while that the non-football schools would prefer to be in a league with football schools that play good basketball. But Notre Dame, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and Louisville . . . gone, gone, gone, gone, and gone. (Not to mention Rutgers.) Only UConn and Georgetown remain as big draws in this town. Marquette, Memphis, and Cincinnati all are fine games but not draws.

There is one other strong draw, between blood rivals. Maybe Villanova and Temple will take their annual game to the Wells Fargo. Home sites make for better atmosphere, but the bigger place might produce a couple of extra bucks. The bigger question: Will it end up as a league game?

Contact Mike Jensen at mjensen@phillynews.com or on Twitter @Jensenoffcampus.

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